Our Boca Raton City Council election is Tuesday March 14. As residents we can exercise our right to vote for people who will listen to our concerns about the massive overdevelopment taking place in our downtown and along Military Trail. Government is supposed to work for its residents, not the other way around.
I am sure you have experienced, as I have, the extremely heavy traffic and noticed the massive over development of residential buildings being constructed in our downtown area known as the (CRA) Community Redevelopment Area from East Camino Real on the south, continuing north along Mizner Blvd, across East Palmetto Park Rd. to another extremely large residential building under construction, just south of Mizner Park. Another one of these buildings runs along East Palmetto Park Rd just east of Mizner Blvd and covers three city blocks, not far from the Intracoastal Waterway.
This downtown CRA was to have been a pedestrian friendly mixture of commercial and residential buildings with setbacks, open space, green space and height restrictions. Instead it has become the MONEY POT for real estate developer/investors who have been allowed multiple variation’s and extreme deviations to Boca’s codes and ordinances, without regard to traffic concerns for those of us who live here or those who may be moving into those buildings.
On Sunday, October 30, 2016 the Sun Sentinel ran a very large front page, Sun Sentinel Investigates article titled ‘WE’RE GOING TO MAKE THEM SUFFER’. The text under the bold title states “Cities are deliberately making your commute worse, jamming development into urban areas no matter how it affects traffic. The goal: Get more people to use mass transit. But critics say it will never work.” It states that this massive type of development known as Live, Work & Play indicating that residents will be able to live in a building, walk or take mass transit to work and walk to play. Another statement in the article is ‘There’s another reason behind the mad dash to approve high-rise after high-rise: money.‘ “It’s a big experiment” said Robert Poole, a Plantation resident and an engineer with the Reason Foundation, a public policy research group in Washington, DC “We won’t know for another 10 years if it’s going to work.” “If it doesn’t work, we’re going to have some big white elephants on our hands – and even worse congestion.”
Getting more people to take mass transit when we do not have mass transit is an interesting concept and the fact that we live in a sub-tropical climate makes walking or biking any distance a very uncomfortable way to get around, especially if one is going to work or go out for dinner or anywhere else.
I have to question the Sun Sentinel Endorsement Board’s selection of Boca’s incumbent mayor after reading their own investigative reporters interesting and informative article.
In 2012, when residents east of Mizner Park discovered that Archstone, an enormous residential project, just south of them, and over 3 city blocks wide was speeding through the city’s approval process, they tried to talk with the city council but, instead, were stonewalled. They put together an official petition and presented it to council, who immediately filed a lawsuit against the residents. After years of legal proceedings, the Florida State Legislature passed a law, signed by the Governor to no longer allow residents to petition against development orders. The residents also found that the present Mayor and another former council member had gone to the state legislature to support the passage of the law to deny residents the right to challenge development orders. The over-development project, now called Palmetto Promenade, was fast tracked through City approval process in 3 weeks.
Residents who live near Spanish River Blvd. discovered that a developer wanted additional development rights just north of Florida Atlantic University and the Boca Raton Airport. They tried to speak with council members about how increasing density on that site would add more traffic to already heavily traveled Spanish River Blvd but they were also stonewalled. Now that property has 60% more development rights. The developer also included a hotel on that property which is located just north of the Boca Raton Airport’s take-off and landing runway. The Executive Director of the Airport stated that two aircraft accidents had occurred there since 1985. The Council voted 4 to 1 to approve the developer’s request. Council Member Scott Singer was the NO vote on this overdevelopment project.
The week before Christmas & Hanukkah 2016, The Planning & Zoning Board had as an agenda item,’ Midtown’ which is another developer request for additional overdevelopment rights for residential buildings along Military Trail and Town Center Road. The neighborhoods in that area of Military Road, who already experience heavy traffic on that road, knew nothing about the project and, therefore, were not at the meeting. The Planning & Zoning Board after hearing the developer’s rep. said they did not have enough information and postponed a decision.
Government is supposed to work for and with residents and it is sad to see that this city council does not communicate with the residents of this city.
On numerous occasions residents communicated to the city council that they wanted to have a world class waterfront interactive park constructed on city owned Intracoastal Waterway property, the former Wildflower night club site. The city council had decided after seven years of ownership of this land to give a 45 yr. Lease to a restaurant but the residents objected. The council was not interested in what the residents were suggesting so a resident’s referendum was presented to them to put the decision to a city wide vote. The vote took place during the Presidential election and was won by the residents with nearly 70% of the vote. Special interests that control the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat this Boca ballot question which also included the protection of all city-owned
Intracoastal Waterway park land from commercial development.
One has to wonder why the special interests that control the city, a membership organization, would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, mostly from out of town real estate developers, just to support construction of a restaurant on that piece of Intracoastal Waterway property. Or did developers have their sights on building on all Intracoastal Waterway park lands?
Running for a seat on Boca Raton city council is very expensive, mainly because the special interests that control the city have relatively unlimited funds from their membership which includes out of town real estate developers who back candidates that will support their every wish. They supply campaign managers, money to support their selected candidates, use Political Action Committees that they open and encourage others to open PACs to produce post cards, expensive advertisements on TV, internet and newspapers and make phony telephone polls, both positive for their candidate and negative for their opponents. They have no problem making up erroneous positive statements about their candidates and fabricating lies about their opponents, even if it means destroying the opponent’s reputation. They also pay for expensive prominent signs that are placed on one member’s massive number of city properties.
This year, 2017, one of their candidates, a young attorney who just moved into the City of Boca Raton last August 2016, still maintains a Homestead Exemption on the house he owns outside the city limits. One would think that an attorney would know that Homestead means that this is the place of residence? A PAC post card states that this individual is a proven leader for the City of Boca Raton and, yet, he has lived here less than 6 months and has never served on a city board or committee.
I have to question the Realtors Endorsement Board’s endorsement of this individual since Homestead Exemption is important to residents who own real estate.
The Mayor, who is running for re-election, states on a recent post card that she has worked hard to get $110,000,000 for road improvements, bridges, traffic signals, trolleys, etc. Yet, we have roads like SW 12th Ave, Boca Raton Blvd, SW 18th Street and many others that are in need of repair and resurfacing. Traffic lights are no longer synchronized or activated by motion detection which would help to keep traffic moving and we have long needed improved railroad crossings at Camino Real and SW 18th Street. She also included Trolley funds, where are the trolleys that would help with the traffic downtown?
City council seldom listens to residents and, more often, blocks residents’ efforts to discuss matters of concern.
I sincerely believe that we need new leadership by qualified individuals who are not beholden to the special interests that presently control our city. Following are the candidates I believe in:
Andrea O’Rourke, candidate for City Council Seat B, has lived in Boca for 37 years and has worked tirelessly for the residents and believes in responsible, sustainable growth. She co-founded her neighborhood’s Home Owner Association, is Past Chairperson of the Federation of Homeowners Association, Member of the Downtown Advisory Committee, Member of Rotary Club of Boca Raton, to name just a few. She has walked door to door for six months to introduce herself and ask about residents’ concerns for our city.
Al Zucaro, candidate for Mayor, has lived in the City of Boca for nine years since his marriage to long time Boca resident Yvonne Boice. Previously he served as a commissioner on the West Palm Beach Commission and while following the residents’ treatment at Boca city council and seeing campaign literature showing members of Council publicly telling the residents that they did not want a sitting city council member to be re-elected, he knew he needed to do something. He knew, too, that council members’ treatment of another member just because he disagreed with them was outrageous and ethically wrong. He decided to start BocaWatch in order to let the public know just what was taking place. He has the experience and he cares about our city.
Scott Singer is an incumbent council member running for re-election to Seat A. I support him because he holds frequent open forums for residents to share their concerns, he voted against University Village over-development, he worked with those of us who wanted a world class waterfront park on city owned Intracoastal Waterway land, instead of another Intracoastal Waterway restaurant and because he is the only member of council who listens to residents when they come to speak before city council.